McCain Has No Message

I wrote this as a comment on NLS- it ended up being so long I figured I’d throw it up on my blog too.
McCain has no message. Once the bounce wears off and the focus is recentered, people will have a clear choice. This is the first time in 12 years that we have had the message and the GOP looks hapless shifting around every other week.

In 2000, Bush won on the message – “peace & prosperity minus the blue dress.”  And Gore shifted every other week between wedding himself to Clinton or not. The whole campaign became about whether he was running on Clinton’s legacy or running from his moral misdeeds. Finally in the last couple weeks he settled down and moved away from all the non-incumbent “People vs. the Powerful” messaging and used the message – “Keep the prosperity going” closing the gap, even winning the popular vote. If he had run on that message the whole way he probably would have won Florida.

In 2004, Bush won on the message – “he will keep you safe/you can’t trust Kerry.” Kerry meanwhile tried to run a whole campaign of biography. His message was almost non-existent. The convention was essentially one big masterbatory waste of time. One speaker after another talking about John Kerry the hero.

Now in 2008- Barack Obama is going to win on the message – “change.”  Initially, John McCain had it in his mind to run a race similar to the one Bush won with in 2004. He spent the last several years transitioning to a fierce supporter of the double down Bush Iraq strategy and shifted his positions to the right to win the GOP primary. His message- “I will keep you safe/You can’t trust Obama.” But in the last couple weeks, for whatever reason, he decided that strategy wouldn’t win. My guess is that it was a combination of factors. First, his polling must have showed him he couldn’t consolidate his base. Second, the GOP has prob. gone back to the “scare” tactic well one too many times. It likely wasn’t peeling off enough independents. However, it’s questionable whether he allowed enough time to see if the message would work.

Instead, McCain made the foolish gamble of trying to pull a combination of Gore and Kerry’s strategy. He is running essentially as an incumbent (which I’m sure my Republican friends will try to argue away) because he is from that party, he has the same positions on the issues, and he has been in Washington much much longer. Not to mention the quotes from the primary praising and tying himself to Bush and the many photos of them together. Yet, as an incumbent he is running on his version of Gore’s “People vs. the Powerful” – “reform/change/etc.”

And he’s pulling from Kerry by wrapping this so much in biography. The convention reminded me a lot of Kerry’s from ’04- complete with a charismatic speech from a newcomer which doesn’t fundamentally further the presidential candidates’ chances. This aspect reveals perhaps the biggest flaw in the McCain strategy. McCain’s campaign is all about him. Of course you have to weave in your personal story to your message as a sort of proof or credibility. But McCain is resting it all on bio. So much that he has eschewed talking about issues to a large extent.

Elections are not about the candidates, they’re about the voters. I have a feeling they’re going to teach John McCain that lesson on November 4th.

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One Response to “McCain Has No Message”

  1. Dan Says:

    If the Democrats cannot win now then they should just quit..

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